Theresa May signals further doubts over single market membership


Theresa May has signalled further doubts about Britain's future membership of the European single market.

The Prime Minister said she wants the "right deal in terms of operating within and trading with" the EU post-Brexit, also telling MPs the negotiations will seek the "maximum possible access".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded the PM she previously warned leaving the single market posed risks to the UK, as he criticised Mrs May for pursuing a "shambolic Tory Brexit" to appease her backbenchers.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Mrs May told Mr Corbyn: "What we are going to do is deliver on the vote of the British people and leave the European Union.

"What we are going to do is be ambitious in our negotiations to negotiate the best deal for the British people - and that will include the maximum possible access to the European market for firms to trade with and operate within the European market.

"I'm also clear that the vote of the British people said we should control the movement of people from the EU into the UK - and unlike you, we believe we should deliver on what the British people want."

She also told the Labour leader: "We will be leaving the European Union and in doing that we will negotiate the right deal for the UK, which means the right deal in terms of operating within and trading with the European market.

"That's what matters to companies here in the UK, and that's what we're going to be ambitious about delivering."

Mr Corbyn, in his first PMQs since winning a second leadership election, turned to the words of Tory former chancellor Ken Clarke as he told Mrs May: "What he said was, in his own inimitable way, 'The reason the pound keeps zooming south is that absolutely nobody has the faintest idea exactly what we're going to put in place'.

"We on these benches do respect the decision of the British people to leave the European Union but this is a Government which drew up no plans for Brexit, that now has no strategy for negotiating Brexit and offers no clarity, no transparency and no chance of scrutiny of the process for developing a strategy.

"The jobs and incomes of millions of our people are at stake, the pound is plummeting, business is worrying and the Government has no answers.

"The Prime Minister says she won't give a running commentary.

"But isn't it time the Government stopped running away from the looming threat to jobs and businesses in this country and the living standards of millions of people?"

Mrs May insisted she is "optimistic" about the country's prospects after it leaves the EU, adding other nations are approaching the UK about trade deals.

She went on to Mr Corbyn: "(Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry) wants a second vote.

"I have to say to her I would have thought Labour MPs would have learnt this lesson - you can ask the same question again, you still get the answer you don't want."

Mr Corbyn had earlier asked if access to the single market is a "red line" for the Government.

He also reminded Mrs May: "Someone once said that leaving the single market would risk a loss of investors and business and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade.

"That person is now the Prime Minister and that was before the referendum."

The exchanges between the pair began with Tory MPs cheering after Mrs May congratulated Mr Corbyn on his leadership election victory.

Mr Corbyn replied: "I'm most grateful to the over 300,000 people that voted for me to become the leader of my party - which is rather more than voted for you to become leader of your party."

Later in Prime Minister's Questions, Ms Thornberry raised a point of order saying she was not in favour of a second EU referendum.

"I never have been and I am not, and I just wanted to make sure that the record was made clear," Ms Thornberry told the House.